Tesla’s Wireless Charging Platform is well-made and exorbitant
It’s basically Apple’s failed-to-launch AirPower mat but with Cybertruck aesthetics.
It kind of makes sense that Tesla would make wireless chargers. After all, when you think of the company, you think electric vehicles and their Superchargers (at least, after you force the image of Elon Musk out of your mind). But wireless charging is a slightly different beast that requires understanding of magnetic fields and expertise in power transfer technologies. That’s where Freepower, formerly known as Aira, comes in. Founder Jake Slatnick started the company in 2017 and told Engadget that it has spent the last five and a half years developing a “much more advanced form of Qi,” the industry-wide standard for wireless charging.
As a “technology supplier” according to Slatnick, Freepower doesn’t typically make products for consumers, besides the Base Station chargers it made in collaboration with Nomad Goods. When the Pro model launched in 2019, it was considered an enticing alternative to Apple’s canceled AirPower charging mat. Both promised to deliver power to up to three devices without you having to carefully align them to the charging coils. But the Base Station series is no longer supported and had compatibility issues that affected its charging speeds.
In December last year, Tesla and Freepower announced the Wireless Charging Platform, and it might be a spiritual successor to the Base Station Pro. Like many of the car maker’s other products, though, it’s almost ludicrously expensive. At $300, Tesla’s offering is twice the cost of the priciest item on our roundup of the best multi-device wireless chargers. Still, diehard fans might not mind the premium, and there are some unique characteristics here that could explain the delta (although I maintain that it’s still too much to justify).
For that money, you’re at least getting what feels like a sturdy, premium product. The charging platform is a dense, solid block about 220mm (8.66inches) wide that weighs 747 grams (1.64 pounds). Together with the magnetic stand that props it up at an angle, the whole thing comes in at 1.02kg (2.26 pounds), which is pretty hefty. It’s not like you’re going to be carrying this around in your backpack so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth noting in case you were hoping to take it on your next trip.
Aside from that minor note, there isn’t much to complain about. The alcantara fabric on the surface provides a grippy texture for my slippery phones, and the power cable is an ample 60 inches long, so it easily extends to my side table from the nearest outlet. The wire also tucks away neatly into the understated slot so cable management fans can rejoice. The platform and the included 65-watt charger all feature an angular style that’s reminiscent of the Cybertruck, in a sleek all-matte-black finish. It’s not much to look at, until you take a closer look and start noticing the little aesthetic touches.
While Tesla was responsible for the charging platform’s appearance, Freepower handled the tech. Thanks to the 30 coils embedded beneath the surface, with the loops overlapping each other in layers, you should not only be able to charge up to 3 devices at once, but it also doesn’t matter where you place them. This is the idea of “spatial freedom” that Slatnick mentioned, where, unlike Magsafe or other Qi products, you won’t have to align your handset with the rings on the charger to establish a connection.
I enjoyed being able to throw my iPhone 14 Pro down haphazardly and not worry about lining up circles or waiting for magnets to click into place. It was also nice that when I shifted the iPhone slightly to make room for my Pixel 6 Pro, the charging wasn’t interrupted.
One tiny thing I noticed was a slight delay of a few seconds from the time I placed my phone on the surface till the charging indicator appeared onscreen. This is a tad slower than other Qi chargers I’ve experienced, but not a major concern. The actual charging speed is comparable to Magsafe and other Qi devices that support 15W rates. My iPhone 14 Pro got from 57 percent to 65 percent in 22 minutes, which is in line with my experience with an older Belkin wireless charger.
One thing that was different was how warm my phone felt after sitting on the platform for about half an hour. Charging in general, and wireless charging in particular, can cause a device to get hot, but this felt warmer than usual. It wasn’t enough to alarm or burn me, but I also haven’t left my gadgets on this longer than an hour, so I’m not sure how it would pan out if left overnight. This greater heat output than usual suggests there might be some energy wasted in the process, and we've asked Freepower to elaborate on the efficiency of its tech and will update when we get an answer.
It’s worth pointing out that the issue often cited as the reason behind Apple’s cancellation of the AirPower charging mat was that it was reportedly running “way too hot” due to its multi-coil design. Slatnick told Engadget that while its technology is “functionally equivalent to AirPower,” it has a team of expert engineers that have managed to work out many of the challenges in multi-coil design. These include determining how to deliver power to multiple devices at once, locating where each one’s receiver coils are, the varying levels of charge they might be at, as well as how to do all that without using too much energy.
I’m not about to drop $300 for a Tesla-branded wireless charging station, even if it is very sleek and technologically impressive. Setting aside my concern about how hot it makes my phones, I’m just not the sort of person who would pay $300 for something I don’t actually need. But I am interested in what Freepower is working on. Slatnick wants to continue working with other vehicle manufacturers or furniture companies to see how to embed its multi-device wireless charging technology into all the surfaces that surround us. Maybe one day we’ll see kitchen counters or backseat pockets in cars that can charge the devices that we’ve become so reliant on. Let’s hope that we get there without too many exploding phones or electrical fires in the process.